Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"By keeping the secondary cast to a minimum, Young allows us to share Donna's loneliness." | Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

This intimate and humanistic character study may be small but it has been shaped with care by Heather Young, who lets her story of a lonely middle-aged woman having a crisis behind closed doors play out with gentle force.

Donna doesn't have a lot in her life. Her flat is a study in beige and her daughter Julia never texts back. Just about her only comfort is wine in the evenings, and her relationship with that is succinctly summarised as we see her taking a hammer to a bottle's neck when a cork refuses to shift. When she starts work at an animal centre as part of her community service - the result of driving under the influence - it seems to offer a comforting outlet of sorts, as she gets to chat to the animals in between all the mop and bucket work. In particular, she takes a shine to the mop-headed Charlie - who could be a scruffy descendent of Lady And The Tramp's Peggy - all shaggy hair and lolling tongue.

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He's considered a lost cause by the vet - and has a heart murmur that mimics Donna's own - so she persuades the management to let her take him home. She pours her affections on to the adorable scruff, which might be considered no bad thing, and then forms a bond with a cat that she brings home too. This is just the shallow waters of what becomes a new addiction for Donna, as she is drawn like a moth to the flame of unconditional attention the animals give her.

Young cares about her character and her craft. One or two other characters come and go - most notably a shelter co-worker Crystal (Andria Edwards) - but for the most part, even when Donna is being spoken to by other people, she is alone in the frame, often low within it, never seeming to take up much space. Young focuses on the things Donna does - notably often looking downwards - whether it's suds twisting in a bucket or bubbles of wine as it disappears down the drain. They might seem insignificant, but then, so does Donna to most people.

By keeping the secondary cast to a minimum, Young allows us to share Donna's loneliness with her and to feel the same joy at the sight of Charlie's tongue flopping out at an angle. Macdonald, who is a non-professional, has a naturalism in the role - an ordinariness and authenticity that works well with the material.

Of course, in Donna's life something is going to give - Charlie is old, her home is small and addiction isn't a great place to be no matter how cute the object of your affections. Donna's may be an unusual craving but it opens a window into the world of dependence more generally, as we can see how it happens by degrees, overwhelming her without her realising it. Young asks us not to judge Donna but to notice her and, more than that, feel for her. We do.

Reviewed on: 24 Feb 2021
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When an elderly dog is scheduled to be euthanized, Donna decides to take the dog home to fill the emptiness she feels, Donna begins to take home more and more animals and she is soon in over her head.

Director: Heather Young

Writer: Heather Young

Starring: Andria Edwards, Shan MacDonald

Year: 2019

Runtime: 84 minutes

Country: Canada


Glasgow 2021

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